tv PBS News Hour PBS August 11, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: the government slashed its corn and soybean crop expectations again as a worsening drought plagues most of the united states. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight: we assess the impact of the drought on the price of food and other products, and examine its wider affect on the overall economy. >> woodruff: then, we conclude our series on the domestic energy boom with a debate about the benefits and pitfalls of increased oil and gas production. >> brown: gwen ifill has a conversation with "new york times" reporter rachel swarns about uncovering the rich multicultural heritage of first lady michelle obama. >> they basically had front-row seats to major moments in our history, from shrivery to the civil war, reconstruction,
segregation, the migration. it is a very, very american story. >> woodruff: newshour regulars ruth marcus and michael gerson analyze the week's news. >> brown: and as the thrilling olympic games wind down in london, we check in with christine brennan of "usa today." >> woodruff: that's all ahead, on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
>> woodruff: the government confirmed today that corn, soybeans, and other crops are among the hardest-hit casualties of the worst drought the country has faced in decades. the u.s. agriculture department today predicted the lowest average corn yield in 15 years. the u.s.d.a. now projects 10.8 billion bushels of corn to be produced. that is down 17% from its forecast just last month of 13 billion bushels. it's a result of severe lack of rainfall-- conditions that have spread across even more of the u.s. breadbasket. nearly a quarter of the country is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, according to this week's drought monitor report, published by the federal government and the university of nebraska. their weekly map shows areas of the worst drought-- marked here in red and burgundy-- grew by 2% from the week before. the drought and drop in corn
production will increase food prices at home and abroad. margaret warner takes it from here. >> warner: to better understand this latest news about corn production and the likely impact of the drought on food supplies in the u.s. and around the world, we turn to ron nixon, who has been covering this story for the "new york times." ron, thank you for being with us. first of all, let's just start with how big a blow is this news about corn and soybeans to overall food production? >> good evening, margaret. i think the overall effect is analysts had anticipated that the corn yield would be low, but they were expecting it to be eye bit higher than what the government report actually showed. so this means that you'll have an increase in feed prices and the resulting impact of that is higher meet, poultry, dairy product. it's much higher too than people
thought it would be. and the government with corn, soy beeps, meat, also. >> warner: and corn is also an essential ingredient, or corn derivatives in a lot of processed foods as well. >> it is. it's in quite a few things, everything from starches to toothpaste to cookies. it's in a number of products, so when you have a drop in production like this, it's going to spread throughout the food chain. >> warner: so give us an idea for people who are going to the grocery store who that's going to mean. >mean. is there any way to quantify yet what we're going to see in the coming months? >> well, last month, the u.s.d.a. put out its food price index and what that showed is overall food prices would increase about 3% to 4% because of the drought. the things that would most
likely be impacted will be beef, pork, poultry, eggs, because those are very corn intensive, and other things like cookies, cake, things like that won't be as impacted because the prices for those items, most of that has to do with packaging, transportation, and other energy costs. so you won't see increases in that, but you will see increases in meat and poultry and dairy. >> warner: now, as judy reported, this is the worst it's drought is the worst it's been in well over 50 years in the u.s. the heat is also a major factor, isn't it? i mean, the heat of this summer is, what, the highest ever? >> it's-- july was the highest month that we've had ever. so that's having a major impact, not just on the crops but the animals, too. part of the problem with the livestock is the feed prices are going up, but the heat is also
impacting them. so ranchers are having to either sell off their herds or just cull them, and so the heat is having a major impact. >> warner: let's expand this globally. the u.s. exports a lot of food, corn and other food products to the world. what is the likely ripple effect on supply and prices worldwide? >> well, exports are certainly going to go down. the u.s. is the largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat, so countries that are heavily dependent on those imports will be impoocted. countries like china, china importaise lot of corn because it uses it for livestock. pork is who they get most of their protein for. a country like mexico that's imports a lot of corn from the u.s. for its diet. so those are countries that definitely are going to be impacted by this. we have about 40% of the corn
market in the world, so having a drop in production definitely has an overall global impact is it. >> warner: and what are analysts you're talking to sieg whether this will have an impact on u.s. economic growth in the next year. in other words, will we actually see that reflected in slower economic growth? >> well, the automobilist that's we talked to don't believe so. because ag-- agriculture is big, the impact of the drought on agriculture won't have that big of an impact on the larger economy. >> warner: what about the farmers and ranchers? theor going to have lower production but higher prices, right? >> lower production and higher prices, and the people that's would most be impacted are the livestock producers, which might see some increased prices initially because as they sell uvetheir herds because they keep
the feed them, they'll see higher prices initially, but after that, it could lower the prices and because they don't have disaster aid like crop insurance, like the other corn and soybean and wheat producers have, it's going to have a much larger impact on livestock producers. >> warner: ron nixon from the "new york times," thank you so much. >> thank you, margaret. >> brown: still to come on the newshour: debating the nation's energy future... uncovering the first lady's family history... ruth marcus and michael gerson... and a reporter's take on the london olympics. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: the u.s. government will not prosecute goldman sachs or any of its employees in the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009. the justice department announced last night there's not enough evidence to bring criminal charges. in 2010, goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges.
the wall street firm was accused of misleading buyers of its mortgage-related securities. for the record, goldman sachs is a sponsor of pbs online. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained more than 42 points to close just under 13,208. the nasdaq rose 2 points to close near 3,021. for the week, the dow gained nearly 1%. the nasdaq rose nearly 2%. hundreds of mourners paid final respects today to the six people gunned down sunday at a sikh temple near milwaukee. they were joined by the governor of wisconsin, and the nation's top law enforcement official. >> for hours they filed through the oak creek high school jiminizeium in solemn lines. sikh men wor traditional turbines of their faith and others covered their heads in respect. mean comforted one another as they slowly made their wees past
the sashets of the five men and one woman killed in the attack. wisconsin's governor scott walker told the mourners, all citizens, regardless of faith, stand with the sikhs in their grief. >> it should be not lost on any of us, that's our founders included in the very first meantime to the constitution a protection of the freedom of religion. no matter who country your ancestors came from, no matter where you worship, no matter what your background, as americans, we are one. >> u.s. attorney general eric holder praised the sikhs for the way they have respondd to the assault. >> last sunday morning, this community witnesses the very worst of humankind, but for every minute, every hour, and every day since then, you have exemplified and you have inspired the very best in who we are. >> it remained unclear nearly a week later exactly what motivated the attack at the sikh temple. the gunman, wade michael page,
took his own life after being wounded by police. he had a history of involvement with white supremacists. today, the secretary of the oak creek temple could on governments to do more to ensure all innocent people are protected from violence. >> everybody just pray it won't happen again. it doesn't matter sikh temples, it doesn't matter hindu templees, christian, or muslim, any religion. >> near the conclusion of the ceremony, mourners stood to pray for the victims. scheduled later was a treat-hour rite in which priests read the entire sikh holy book out loud to honor the dead. three u.s. marines were killed in afghanistan tied by an afghan police officer. it was the third such attack this week, and the 21st this year. it happened in the sangin district of helmand province. afghan officials said the
policeman had just finished eating with the americans, when he opened fire. the taliban said the gunman joined their ranks after the shooting. in syria, government forces were unrelenting in their bombardment of aleppo. rebels there said they were running low on ammunition. and the fighting wasn't just in the ancient northern city. the capital, damascus, also saw shelling again today in outlying areas where rebels remain. in washington, the u.s. announced new sanctions against president bashar assad's state- run oil company for shipping gasoline to iran. white house spokesman jay carney defended the action against criticism it was largely symbolic. >> no single singles is going to, by itself, prevent assad from, you know, getting his last bit of financing. but together, collectively, the sienchgzs enhance pressure.
the u.s. and other western nations have stopped short of providing weapons to the syrian rebels. but opposition fighters in aleppo appealed again today for heavier arms to fight syrian tanks and planes. at the london olympics today, a world record that had stood for 27 years was dashed in women's track. spoiler alert: you may want to tune out for a few moments, while we give some of today's results. the u.s. women's team won the 4- by-100 relay today, and broke a world record time set in 1985. bahamas won the men's 4-by-400 relay, beating out the u.s. team. and american jordan burroughs won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling, the first one in wrestling for the u.s. at these games. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: and we turn to the ups and downs of an energy boom, wrapping up our series that's looked at how new production is fueling rapid changes across the country.
in our series this week, we have seen how homeground energy output is forging ahead, offering opportunities and posing problems at the same time. in north dakota, new technology has lead to a boom in oil production. >> we're going to be here for many, many years, and once we're finished drilling these wells, these wells will produce for 30 to 40 years. >> brown: drilling means jobs in towns like williston, but it also leaves the locals to deal with growing pains. >> we're frustrated with lack of services. you know, we're frustrated with traffic. we're frustrated with driving. you know, we're not alone, and i don't care if you've been here a long time or a short time. >> brown: in colorado, one source of tension is between competing fossil fuels. as natural gas vies with the state's plentiful coal supply as a cleaner burning option for pow plant. the gas boom my also slow any shift to renewable energy, such as wind or solar power. >> the bar just got a bit higher for the entrance of some of
these new and alternative technologies into the energy mix. >> brown: sprouting gas wells pose a challenge over the use of public loans as well. in utah, environmentalists and energy firms have collaborated on ways to allow for drilling while protecting natural areas. u.s. interior secretary ken sool zardari welcomes the effort. >> it is my view that protecting the environment and developing oil and gas are not mutualo exclusive. those who sigh tire are providing a false choice. >> brown: that may be, but as new technology allows for ever-more extraction of fuels, the right balance and best approaches are far from settled. we pick up on some of the questions raised by the energy boom now with kate sinding. deputy director with the national resources defense council. her work includes promoting smart growth and monitoring environmental and health impacts of natural gas drilling in new york state.
and robert bryce, a senior fellow at the manhattan institute, who's written widely on energy matters, including his recent book, "power hungry: the myth of green energy." kate sinding, i'll start with you, a boom in new production, overturning a lot of old assumptions about energy in this country. give us an overview first. what do you see happening? >> well, what we see happening is that the way that natural gas is being developed in this country is totally unacceptable. you've got an industry that's running roughshod over communities. thigh think that they're entitled to operate under a different set of rules than those that apply to everybody else. and the result is a pattern of negative impacts to water, to air, to health, and to our communities. it's not something that should be happening in america in 2012. and, moreover, it's not a model of development that's sustainable, either, from an economic standpoint or for the planet. >> brown: all right, robert bryce, sometime question, general overview first and then we'll walk through some of these issues. >> sure. well i would you pleased your
reports earlier this week and i agree with what interior secretary salazar said in one of your reports. he said that the development of natural gas is one of the greatest opportunities for economic security, national security, and environmental security. this-- the development of the shale revolution, which we're in the midst of now, is the single most important energy development in the global energy scene since the discovery of the east texas field in the 1930s. for the u.s., this is unqualified good news. now, are there local impacts are there fence line issues for neighbors and are there concerns? of course there are. and those won't go away because we're seeing a lot of drilling in areas that haven't had it before. >> brown: so, kight, let's go to very specific issue of course at the heart of the new technology that allows a lot of this new production is tooking. so, kate sinding, talk to us a little bit that's. the obvious plus suget more and it's what cost? >> right, ye, fracking, the
development of fracking combined in the case of many of these resources with horizontal drilling that allows for them to develop resources where they previously hadn't thought that they economically could do so. what those two technologies involved mean together is significant amounts of water usage, significant generation of waste waters, generation of air pollution, lots of traditional pollution, significant amount of water involved in fracking translate into hundreds of truck trips for every well pad. those in turn turn into not only air quality impacts but impacts to quality of life, the kinds of things that we saw in a clip from one of the segments earlier this week. we're grappling with some really serious issues now, issues the industry itself is acknowledging present real problems, waste water being a key example. the wurt that-- waste water generated through the extraction
of gas using the fracking process is heavily contaminated, both with chemicals used as part of the fracking process itself as well as with natural occurring contaminants which include heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, very high levels of salt, and in some instances radioactivity. millions of gallons are generated at well pads. what to do with the we have the water, how to safely dispose of it in a we that doesn't present rebs to the communities not only where drilling is occurring but where the we have the water ends up being transported is a very vexing issue. and it highlights-- go ahead. >> brown: well, i just want to bring robert bryce in on this because i'm wondering, is it a question of acknowledging all the kinds of questions that we just heard and the concerns, but in the balance that's okay? or do you question some of the cbs behind tooking and other technologies? >> well, look, this is a
technology that is not new. it's been used over a million times over the last six decades. the points that miss syndig makes, i agree with some of them. there are three interrelated points if we look at this in the big picture in terms of public relations. one is that we're talking about water, which is an emotional issue for everyone. no one wants contaminated water. second, the oil and gas industry has a lower favorability eating than congress. this is according to a recent gallup poll. so beating up on the oil and gas industry from for the environmental groups is extremely easy. and finally, the environmental groups have a very simple message which is basically big oil wants to pollute your water, so the drilling industry's only response is, "no we don't." but when you look at the overall balance-- and i'm not dismissing the fence line issue that's are involved here, the truck traffic, et cetera-- but this is an incredible benefit to the u.s. economy. if you look at the period in the 19-- from 2003 through 2008,
natural gas prices averaged over $7. today theor under $3. that's results in a ceivings to the u.s. economy of $2 ski million a day. that's $96 billion a year. this is incredibly good news for the u.s. economy tie critical time when a lot of people are out of work glawn glown this goes to the balance question. in our setup we heard ken sarczar say it's a false point to pick between protecting the environment and developing oil and gas. >> well, i would say it's a false choice between protecting the environment and economic development and energy security, where we need to be investing, where we need to be creating new policies and new laws is in the area of facilitating the rapid development of energy efficiency and renewables. obviously, we're in favor of economic development for this country and economic security, and energy security. but we need to be focusing not
on yet another fossil fuel, one that, although it may be cleaner burning than coal or oil, will not help us solve the crime summit crisis. in fact, numerous recent studies show if we end up with decades of dependence on gas rather than investments in renewables and energy efficiency, we're going to be further set back in our effort to deal with the climate crisis. so that's where we need to be focusing our policies and our investments in energy efficiency, renewables-- those are good, clean jobs, sustainable jobs, and the kind of economic development that the country should be look for. >> brown: it sounds like you are fearing what we heard in one of the report thootz boom as is now undermines those kinds of investments. robert bryce, what about that? is that a possibility here or is that actually happening? >> well, look, no one's opposed to energy efficiency. there's been bipartisan agreement on it, on increases in energy efficiency for decades and our economy has grown to be
one of the most energy efficient economies in the world. we've made great strides there. renewablees, i'm all for renewables. i have solar panels on my house. they simply cannot provide the assist scale of energy demanded here in the united states or around the world. natural gas continues to be vilifieds -- a fossil fuel. look at what the international energy agency said in may, the i.e.a. based in paris, since 2006, the u.s. reduced co2 emissions by 532 million tons, more than any other country on the planet. and this is not a perfect solution in terms of reducing co2, but why did the i.e.a. point to the u.s.? because low-cost natural gas is displacing coal. this is a great story. are there costs? of course there are. there's no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to energy or anything else. >> brown: kate sinding, in our last minute, do you want to answer him, respond to that? >> yeah, sure. i mean, i saw a study just a couple of days ago earlier this
week suggesting the decrease in co2 emissions in this country is not so much a function of gas displacing coal as the function of the economic downturn, and there's no question these new shale plates are diverting investment from renewables and efficiency improvements which there is still enormous untapped potential there. so again that's where we've got to be focused. nobody is saying we can turn the lights off tomorrow. nobody is denying this is a country with enormous energy needs but we've got to refocus our policies now to getting renewables up to scale as quickly as we possibly can and not get lost in a hole that natural gas threatens. >> brown: a brief last word from you, mr. bryce. how do you want to end? >> i'll just point to a recent study by i.h.s., which said that's shale revolution, shale development, unconventional natural gas, will support 1.5 million jobs in the u.s. by 2015. these are jobs that are depth rattily needed. do we need to protect the environment? of course.
but the natural gas revolution, unqualified good news for the u.s. economy. >> brown: brie kate sinding, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: you can watch our complete energy series, read a detailed report on fracking, and find a link to prairie public's extended look at the oil boom in north dakota, on our web page. >> brown: next, a new book takes a look at the roots of the first lady's family tree. gwen ifill has that story. on >> living in the united states on the eve of the civil war, there was a 10-year-old girl, who siearnry and a half later would turn out to be the third great-grandmother of michelle obama. even mrs. obama didn't know this family history until "new york times" reporter rachel swarns unearthed it in 2009.
the first lady's ancestry, both black and white are a complicated ancestry. it's a story of the black, white, and multiracial ancestors of michelle obama. you started out after having written about the story for the "new york times," finding out about the genealogy of michelle obama and instead found the story of american history. >> that's right. it really is the sweep of the country's history through the lens of one family. this first lady's family. >> ifill: a family that turned out to be not necessarily-- you traced it backwards from knowing, of course, where it ownedded, but tracing it backward was kind of the drama. >> well, the first lady has always known that she had white ancestors, but she didn't know who or when or where. and so i wanted to take the reader back into time to try and solve that mystery. >> ifill: who was melvinia.
>> melvinia was a slave girl valued at $475 in 1852, and she was the first lady's great-great-great grandmother. and she ended up going from a farm in spartans burg, south carolina, to georgia, where she fathered a child, a biracial child, and the question has been who was the father of that child. >> ifill: so you set out to figure that out. how do you trace that sort of thing? >> it's very challenging. i mean, just telling the stories are challenging, particularly for african americans because melvinia was unusual. she appeared in a will. but before the civil war, people simply didn't appear. african americans didn't appear in the censuses and marriages and births weren't chronicled in newspapers so it's not easy. >> ifill: i noticed throughout the book you often had to fall into a "this may have happened" construction. that must have been kind of frustrating for a reporter. >> it is. and the reality is there are some things we just won't know. >> ifill: was the path that
you took, the path that they took, that this family took, was it typical? how widespread was it? >> her family story is very, very typical. it is the story of so many americans. and they basically had front-row seats to major moments in our history from slavery to the civil war, reconstruction, segregation, the migration. it is a very, very american story. >> ifill: there was a lot written about when this book originally came out about michelle obama's white ancestors. you read them when you first wrote the story for the "new york times." how unusual was that, really? we can look now at the african american experience and see it's a rainbow, as much as anything else. >> it is a rainbow, and many of us have those stories and many people are finding that out through d.n.a. testing themselves. you know, with genealogy tools available online, with a cheek swab, and off it goes in the mail, a lot of ordinary people are finding these stories out and making these kinds of connection. >> ifill: but it raises lots of uncomfortable questions, too, especially about how the
original connection happened. >> it does. and i was able to find the mystery, white ancestors in her family tree, and their descendants, and they, as you might imagine, really grappled with this. it's hard to look back and to know that your family may have owned the first lady's family-- in fact, indeed, did own the first lady's family. and still that your ancestor may have raped a member of the first lady's family. these are not easy things to think about. >> ifill: and there's really no way to tell, in the kind of research you did, what the nature of the relationship was between melvinia and the man who fathered her child. >> right. there's no way to know. >> ifill: adolfus shields, he's a key character in this. tell me about him. >> s lady's great-great-grandfather. he was biracial, born a slave. and he really carried the family forward. he became a carpenter. he became a property owner.
he became-- he ran his own business. he founded churches. when he died, his obituary ran on the front page of the black newspaper in birmingham at the time. >> ifill: and we think he had a relationship, perhaps, with his white father? >> we don't know. there are intriguing questions about that. he left georgia for birmingham, and around the time he was living in birmingham, he had a white half-brother, who also lived in birmingham. and there are people who knew adolfus who said he talked about having a white brother. whether that really was this half-brother, whether he knew who his father really was, we don't know. >> ifill: in putting this all together, knitting this all together, did you talk to current-day members descendants of this tree? >> yes, i talked to members black and white. some of thel actually got together quite recently. >> ifill: tell me about that. >> yeah. they-- the town where melvinia once lived as a slave decided to
erect a monument to melvinia after the story that appeared in the front page of the "new york times." and they had a ceremony. some of melvinia's descendants were there and at the last minute i thought maybe some of the white descendants would like to come and they did. some drove from birmingham and parts of alabama and some came from georgia. it was quite something. >> ifill: i'll bet, i'll bet it was. along the way there has been a certain amount of shame and secret keeping that goes with this kind of connection. i want you to read a passage from the book that i asked you to take a look at that kind of captures, at least in reading it, it captured it for me. >> that reluctance to probe the past, to look back over one's shoulder, to examine the half-healed sores that festered in grandparents and great-grandparents reappeared over and over again in mrs. obama's family tree. it has made the search for the truth that much harder. but it is also understandable. people often turn away from what
is too painful to witness. they almost always want their children to see the world as a better place, to be free of their pain. >> ifill: in meeting with the descendants, as they met each other for the first time recently, did it seem as if they had transcended that pain? >> i think they were willing to grapple with it. and i-- i think in many ways, they would have wished that this connection might have originated in a different way, but they accepted it and thought that they, as contemporary people, could get to know each other. and exchange phone numbers, take a picture, have a dinner. >> ifill: and do you know if there are other african americans and whites who have grown together and grown apart in our society have also found their way back to each other in this way? >> oh, many, many people are doing this all the time. when you do these d.n.a. tests, they connect you to your distant cousins, and for many african
americans, they find they're black, white, and in between. >> ifill: fascinating. rachel swarns, author of "american tapestry," thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: and to the analysis of ruth marcus and michael gerson. both are syndicated columnists whose columns appear in the "washington post." mark shields and david brooks are off tonight. we welcome both of you. so we just heard that really fascinating interview with the author of the book about michelle obama. michael, how is michelle obama seen by the american people? >> well, i think she's clearly the president's single best surrogate. she's a mix of grace and toughness of a kind that americans really like and respect. i'd say the same, by the way, of anne romney, who who has a tremendous advantage. it says something that i think both of these women are probably better natural politicians than their husbands. and of but the warning here, of
course, is that, just like your vice presidents, the first lady is not determinative in the outcome of the election. otherwise, george h.w. bush would have been re-elected as president because barbara bush was a beloved figure in america. she is a tremendous advantage to the president. >> warner: how do you see, ruth, the role of michelle obama and anne romney? >> i think as michael said they're not going to be tipping the balance, but they are the first sarcombat. they are, first of all, validators of their spouses in the cases we've had mostly, the-- their husbands' person as. they help humanize them, and these are men who both in some ways need a little bit of humanizing and warming up. people want to know that their presidents are family men or women. they're also-- look, this is a-- campaigns these days are "all hands on deck" extravaganzas. so what we need from the spouses
also is the willingness that michelle obama has demonstrated in this campaign to go out not just to campaign but also to fund raise. and one interesting things about mrs. obama is her poplarrity has actually grown since she was first introduced to the public. she's done a very good in the white house-- >> warner: with the obesity. >> she's picked noncontroversial subjects so nobody except my children can argue with being told to eat their vegetables. and she does does particularly well in an area very important to the president which is independents. she polls significantly better than he did does in favorability among independents. >> warner: that's interesting. speaking of polling, michael, self new polls show the president with a white seven- to nine-point lead. there are stale couple of polls that have him tied or have romney ahead by a point or two. i realize it's the middle of
august but what is the significance of this kind of lead for the president at this point? >> whatever the level is-- and that's not clear-- the trend is not good for romney. he's lost support among independents, clearly. he's lost support among women, particularly women-- working women without children, where he does really badly. his unfavorables are much higher in these polls than they have been, or significantly higher than they have been in the past. and that, i think, indicates this onslaught, this blitz of negative advertising may be working in part on romney. now, there are some good news here in that these are probably outliars. gallup has-- daily tracking has it much closer. there are still big events coming up. the vice president, the convention-- >> warner: very big events. >> and these polls get more accurate the closer you get to the election. so right now they should be a warning for romney. i don't think they're a source of panic. but he needs to take them quite seriously.
>> warner: how do you see? >> very similarly. i don't get too worked up about a few things-- national polls, okay. let's look at the swing state polls. look at the polling in ohio, in colorado, in florida-- >> warner: where it's still close in some of those states. >> those are places, actually, where governor romney has some reason to be concerned. but i also don't get too worked up about polling in august before all sorts of things have happened that are going to shape the minds of the actually very small number of undecide voters who haven't really tuned in yet here. that said, these-- that governor romney is not doing well overall in a number of polls is not good news for his campaign, given where he should be, simply based on the economic numbers the president is facing. >> warner: i made a promise to myself we were not going to spend much time on the vice presidential pick because we don't know who it's going to be. but just quickly, michael, does
the polling in any way put pressure on romney to go in a certain direction? >> it does, i think, clearly. it encourages him to take a bolder choice. he needs to run as though he's behind. and he is behind, whatever the level is. that leads to candidates like chris christie, the kind of guy you want at your side in a fight; and paul ryan, the intellectual leader of his party. i think that those are narrowing to be the main choices here, rather than the status quo choice. and it may come down to the meetings where romney meets these two men and decides who he's more comfortable with. >> i actually think i see it completely differently, and we'll find out soon enough, but that he's behind in the polls now may be a little bit doesn't suggest sort of throwing caution to the wind and picking somebody like a paul ryan, who i think would be very interesting, would bring a lot of energy and intelligence and substance to the debate, but would be from the democrats' point of view,
the second coming of sarah palin. >> warner: really? >> yes, in a different way than sarah palin, but just a huge number of opportunities for nonstop 30-second attack ads. i think that everything we understand about governor romney suggests a much more-- if i'm going to use an old bush word-- a much more prudent choice. >> warner: from everything we're hearing we may learn something in the next few days or we might not. michael you mentioned the onslaught of negative ads and a lot of conversations this week about a pro-obama super pac ad that features a man who worked at a steel plant in kansas before it was bought by mitt romney's firm, bain capital. let's look at this ad. we're also going to see the response from the romney camp. ♪ ♪ >> when mitt romney and bain closed the plant, i lost my health care. and my family lost their health care. and-- and a short time after
that, my wife became ill. i don't know how long she was sick, and i think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew that we wouldn't afford the insurance. and then one day she-- she became ill, and i took her up to the jackson county hospital, and admitted her for pneumonia, and that's when they found the cancer, and by then it was stage four. it was-- there was nothing they could do for her. and she passed away in 22 days. >> what does it say about a president's character when the keep tries to use the tragedy of a woman's death for political gain? what does it say about a president's character when he had his campaign raise money for the ad, then stood by as his top aides were caught lying about it? doesn't america deserve better than a president who will say or do anything to stay in power? >> i'm mitt romney and i approve
this message. >> warner: michael, we should say the pro-obama super pac, priorities u.s.a. spot, that was just an excerpt of it. was that over the top? >> well, i think the standards of accuracy in a lot of ads in this election have been pretty low. i think this ad is in its own dismal category. i think it's factually inaccurate. if you look at the details involved about romney's involvement in this matter. i think that the arguments are absurd. i think that the message is slanderous. and genuinely unfair. we're no longer arguing whether what standardses we should apply to political advertising. we're starting to argue whether there are any standards whatsoever for political advertising. and this is really a shameless ad that no one seems to be ashamed of. >> uhm, yes, except that-- >> warner: yes, it's over the top. >> yes, it's over the top, shameless that nobody seems to
be ashamed of, but when the tag line of governor romney's ad, "you deserve a president who would say or do anything," i think i have to say, that seems these days to be applying to both campaigns. i think this ad is scurrilous in suggesting, insigneueating that governor romney was somehow responsible through some series of events for this woman's death, and it's just-- it goes too far but i was equally, i think, upset about the romney campaign ad this week about welfare reform, suggesting-- and i think in some ways that really had some troubling overtones -- criticizing the president for abandoning welfare reform and suggesting that he was simply willing to hand out checks while white people shown in the ad werworked hard. this similarly had absolutely no basis in the reality of what his change is. >> warner: what about the
question you just raised, michael, are there any standards? >> this is the problem, is that every one of these incidents, where you get in the gutter and you go lower than the gutter,a becomes an excuse for the next round of escalation. so partisans on both sides say, "well, he did that." you end up with a terrible dynamic taking hold. i think it's a reflection of some deeper problems in our political culture, maybe a reflection of our internet culture where these kinds of attacks are common, where there are no standardses, where there are no limits, and people just seem to be adopting, you know, a situation that's just utilitarian, where facts don't seem to matter, fact checkers don't matter. nothing matters. >> there's a sort of pride in your pinocchios. they don't seem to be dissuading anybody. and i think one thing that may explain this, we're not just in an internet culture but we're in a substance.
free zone. because we're not arguing about ideas and we're not arguing about policies and we're not having debate about serious issues, it creates this space for these-- first the ads, and then the argument over the content of the ads and and will you repudiate the ads, instead of talking about the serious things we need to be talking about. >> warner: should the obama campaign or the white house repudiate it, call on this super pac organization to pull it back? >> the super pac organization that they raise money for and desperately need the money to be raised for? yes, they should. no, they won't opinion. >> warner: michael, quick final question. you wrote a column this week urging governor romney to talk more openly about his faith. why did you make that point? >> well, i think it's less risky than he thinks it is, because if you look at the numbers, most americans are not concerned about mormonism in that way, and even the ones that are concerned, it's not leading to their voting behavior. it's really more partisanship
than religion. but it's very important for him to tell the story, you know, without that element, it's really just bain and boardrooms. and this is a humanizing element of romney's story that if he doesn't tell there's a significant gap in his biography. so i hope in his convention speech-- he doesn't need to be preachy or sectarian. he just needs to talk about his deepest values and motivations and the way he-- it affects the way he would govern. i think americans expect and want that. >> warner: well, we hear you here, maybe the governor is listening. michael gerson, ruth marcus we thank you lot. our newshour gwen ifill is speaking with mitt romney this weekend. we will post an excerpt on our web site and have the full interview on the newshour monday. >> brown: finally tonight, the london olympic games are winding down, heading into the final
weekend. along the way, they've been filled with thrills, and created a good bit of sports history. tomorrow, usain bolt gets another chance to add to his fame in the men's four by 100 relay. his victory yesterday in the 200 meters made him the only man ever to win both 100 and 200 in back-to-back olympics. >> he's pulling away. it's going to be usain bolt! >> brown: the u.s. women's soccer team, the work is over, after beating japan yesterday, to win gold in the third consecutive olympics. and the games have been full of other big moments, especially for the british hosts. they've reveled in hometown heroics from cycling to tennis. chinese athletes have dazzled in a long list of sports from diving to swimming to gymnastics
and more. and chinese hurdler provided one of the game's most dramatic scenes, hopping to the finish line after he struck a hurdle and ruptured his achille's tendon. among much else, the london gamesegameses will also be remed for u.s. swimmer michael phelps, who became the all-time olympic medal leader with 22, two saudi arabian athletes the first to represent their country, and oscar pistoruous, the first amputee runner ever to compete in the olympics. we checked in with christine brennan covering the games for "usa today" and abc. one last time i talked with herave short while ago and i know many of you will be happy to hear no spoiler alert-- i think i can promise this-- is necessary for our discussion. well, christine, hello again. before we get into summing up mode, i do want to ask you about one particular athlete,uc sane n
bolt because he is off the charts in both performance and personality. are you with me on that? >> i completely agree with you, jeff. it happened right behind me on the track and done the unprecedented, winning the 100 and 200 at this olympics and of course wearing it four years ago, a first-ever double-double and usain bolt is one of the great stories coming out of these games, as he was out of the beijing games four years ago. you're right. he's saying he's the greatest of all time. who can really argue? he's certainly, you can make the case, the greatest olympic sprinter of all time. he's not necessarily going to win the gold medal for humility. all the me-me-me stuff, all the self-proclamations of greatness are over the top, which is kind of way he runs. in many ways i guess that's fitting. but his celebration the other night, as he took his time-- you
know he goes very fast for 200 here's, but the rest of the way around the track to celebrate, it can take a long time. it actually impeeledded and kind of got involved with one of the medal ceremonies. so that's something that is a little troublesome, but this guy has an ego bigger than the entire united kingdom at this point and i guess in some ways who can blame him? >> brown: i know there's a little bit more to come over the weekend, but looking back on what you've seen, are there some standouts, particularly any surprises that struck you and will stay with you? >> i ended up going to the women's boxing venue, and i never thought i would go there, and-- first of all, women's boxing for the first time is in the olympic games. and i ran into two fascinating story, katie taylor from ireland. the entire-- it seemed like the entire irish delegation, every fan with an irish flag was there, for a female boxer, just cheering their lungs out for her. she did win the gold. and it was like the old days of prizefighting, you know, they're
cheering for their countryperson. in this case it happens to be a woman, a people boxer. the same thing for clarissa fields, also won the gold medal in boxing, the only gold for the u.s. in boxing, male or female. 17, her dad is in jail, one of her friends was killed while she was here by a gunshot. she is living a life that many of us don't really know, and, yet, the joy for her, in spite of her difficult upbringing to win the gold medal, that was just terrific. of all places boxing, and women's boxing but i think it shows what these games are all about. >> brown: it's interesting when you refer to the irish going crazy for their boxer. it seems as though different countries count success differently. there are different sports that are really important to one country or another. >> well, that's right. with-- the way we look at things with the u.s.-centric point of view, obviously, the u.s. doesvd
may well win the medal count-- i say who cares one way or the other? it's the individual performances. upon but the u.s. is across the board. and then you're right, there are countries who come leer and win a geld or two-- you know, great britain used to be that country that would win just a few golds until of course they hosted the games and they're third place in the medal count and they're doing very well. i think basically, you're right, we focus on the big nations, but some of those small nation, like the irish story, those are some of the most compelling stories of these games, and we find them at venues all over town. >> brown: the olympics, of course, in the run-up to this, a lot of worries about security, a lot of worries about trash, all kinds of concern, about traffic, all kinds of concerns. what's it been like being there. >> i think they've done a terrific job, jeff. coming in, many of us thought that there could be trouble here. it's such a melting pot, london, eight million people. and the entire world showing up at its doorstep. and they've done a great job and
behind me right now are buses coming and going and the transportation system has worked we'llly. it really has. the traffic has not been what we thought it would be. and the actual events and crowds, compared to beijing four years ago where the authorities were telling people to go home and get out of the public scares, of course the brits have been saying, "come in to the public squares." the feeling here, very much like sydney 12 years ago, a city holding a party and the world joining in, and i think that will be certainly one of the london's legacies. >> brown: real briefly, one or two highlights for you that are going to stay with you. >> it will be at the stadium last night, 80,000 people watching women's soccer, the biggest olympic crowd ever for women's soccer and the u.s. coming back after last year's disappointment in the world cup to beat japan 2-1. that's a story i think everyone can relate to women's sock merit united states. and that story redemption, of coming back 13 months later and getting the gold against the team that beat them at the world
cup. and that was a fun story to watch. >> brown: all right, christine brennan in london. once again, thank you for all your reporting and talking with us these past couple of weeks. >> my pleasure, jeff. thank you. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day. the u.s. government slashed its corn and soybean crop expectations again, as a worsening drought plagues most of the country. hundreds of mourners paid final respects to the six people gunned down sunday at a sikh temple near milwaukee. and three u.s. marines were killed in afghanistan by an afghan police officer. it was the third such attack this week. >> brown: on our web site, get a glimpse of campaigns of days past. kwame holman tells us more. >> holman: on our home page, we've collected a slideshow of historic election images and artifacts displayed at the library of congress. author adam brent houghtailing explains the appeal of listening to melancholy songs from his new
book, "this will end in tears: the miserabilist guide to music." find that on art beat. tonight's edition of "need to know" on pbs is a "david and goliath" story, as the tiny island nation of palau mounts a legal fight for survival through the u.n. here's a look at their story reported by william brangham. >> palau's reefs are teeming with a stunning array of marine life. the 20,000 residents of this country live close to the water, and live off its bounty. it's a life built on fishing and farming, plus catering to the tens of thousands of asian tourists who come here every year. but despite palau's isolation from the rest of the world, it can't escape the global effects of climate change and sea level rise. >> holman: "need to know" airs tonight on most pbs stations. find a link to their home page on ours. on "making sense," find our last installment of former tarp cop neil barofsky's take on the financial crisis, plus a response from congressman barney frank.
all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. judy? >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on monday, we'll have gwen ifill's interview with mitt romney on the campaign trail in virginia. i'm judy woodruff >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. "washington week" can be seen later this evening on most pbs stations. we'll see you online, and again here monday evening. have a nice weekend. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs